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Variation in Formulary Management Practices Within the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care System.

Radomski TR, Good CB, Thorpe CT, Zhao X, Marcum ZA, Glassman PA, Lowe J, Mor MK, Fine MJ, Gellad WF. Variation in Formulary Management Practices Within the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care System. Journal of managed care & specialty pharmacy. 2016 Feb 1; 22(2):114-20.

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BACKGROUND: All Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers (VAMCs) operate under a single national drug formulary, yet substantial variation in prescribing and spending exists across facilities. Local management of the national formulary may differ across VAMCs and may be one cause of this variation. OBJECTIVE: To characterize variation in the management of nonformulary medication requests and pharmacy and therapeutics (PandT) committee member perceptions of the formulary environment at VAMCs nationwide. METHODS: We performed an online survey of the chief of pharmacy and an additional staff pharmacist and physician on the PandT committee at all VAMCs. Respondents were asked questions regarding criteria for use for nonformulary medications, specific procedures for ordering nonformulary medications in general and specific lipid-lowering and diabetes agents, the appeals process, and the formulary environment at their VAMCs. We compared responses across facilities and between chiefs of pharmacy, pharmacists, and physicians. RESULTS: A total of 212 chief pharmacists (n = 80), staff pharmacists (n = 78), and physicians (n = 54) responded, for an overall response rate of 49%. In total, 107/143 (75%) different VAMCs were represented. The majority of VAMCs reported adhering to national criteria for use, with 38 (36%) being very adherent and 69 (65%) being mostly adherent. There was substantial variation between VAMCs regarding how nonformulary drugs were ordered, evaluated, and appealed. The nonformulary lipid-lowering drugs ezetimibe, rosuvastatin, and atorvastatin were viewable to providers in the order entry screen at 67 (63%), 67 (63%), and 64 (60%) VAMCs, respectively. The nonformulary diabetes medication pioglitazone was only viewable at 58 (55%) VAMCs. In the remaining VAMCs, providers could not order these nonformulary drugs through the normal order-entry process. For questions about the formulary environment, physician respondent perceptions differed from those of staff pharmacists and chief pharmacists. Compared with pharmacy chiefs and staff pharmacists, physicians were less likely to agree that providers at their VAMC prescribed too many nonformulary medications (47% and 44% vs. 12%, P < 0.001), more likely to agree that providers must jump through too many hoops to prescribe nonformulary medication (5% and 3% vs. 25%, P < 0.001), and more likely to agree that providers make an effort to convert new patients from nonformulary to formulary lipid-lowering (65% and 73% vs. 94%, P < 0.02) and diabetic medications (49% and 50% vs. 88%, P < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Although the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) operates under a single national formulary, we found significant differences among VAMCs regarding their management of nonformulary medication requests. We also found differences among formulary leaders regarding their perception of the environment in which their VAMC's formulary is managed. These findings have important implications not just for VA, but for any organization that develops, implements, and manages drug formularies across multiple facilities.

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